Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Andy Moment (?) | Open Thread

Yup, seems it must be rambling nonsense day. I'll try my best to organize these thoughts into something readable:

I can't help but keep reading it as "moment" rather than "Monument." Perhaps it's because I've been thinking a lot lately about how the ideas and sensibilities that Warhol identified and helped put into full motion seem to be reaching their climax. (I think you can make a very strong argument that it's nearly impossible to think about, let alone discuss, contemporary art without viewing it through a Warholian filter.) I've also been thinking, being the insatiable glutton I am, a lot about whose ideas will succeed Warhol's.

Mind you, I'm not joining up with the long-standing, reactionary rejection of Andy's vision (the people who don't yet recognize the importance of his work still have a lot to consider, imho, and will still be lesser for not doing so after Warhol's influence passes), but rather it seems to me that his vision is approaching the end of its reach, at least in how it influences current artistic practice. It's not just the decision in the Richard Prince case (which looks to have a long life ahead of it in appeals court), but the growing lack of interest in celebrity I sense among today's artists. Andy's vision only makes sense in a world where most people wish to be famous.

Celebrity here shouldn't be confused with a desire to be recognized for one's accomplishments. Artists will never lose that (I hope). But "celebrity", by definition, indicates a broad appeal, which encourages a self-perpetuated focus on highlighting those popular common denominators in one's artwork (which is why artists will crank out the same work long past their personal interest in it), which suggests a lack of time for doubt and then depth that might otherwise be possible.

But as the world continues to splinter into more and more self-identified, self-contained universes (via inter-connecting technology), whose recognition you seek out or even care about becomes more easy to define and then, being smaller, handle. The need to have widespread appeal then diminishes, and with it the need to create the same (and safe, because it must contain that signature X factor) work over and over to feed your broad, but indistinct, public. The smaller your universe is the more commited it is to and better understands your vision, and thus the easier it becomes to experiment more without losing that commitment.

None of this is to say Andy didn't experiment or constantly seek out new ways to explore his ideas and present them. Clearly he did. But his vision was one of ever-widening recognition, and, let's face it, because of a combination of high demand and a lack of self-editing not all of his work is as good as his best (which you can say of most highly successful and highly prolific artists, Picasso perhaps being the quintessential example). And so his legacy is mixed.

And more than a lack of interest in widespread celebrity, I'm beginning to sense a growing desire for clarity among artists. We've touched briefly on this before, and I've been watching this evolve for going on two decades now. The approach I saw in the mid- to late-90s in which many artists (almost unwillingly) seemed to take on or create huge amounts of data and try to work through it, seeking systems, patterns, and through them, sanity, finally seems to have given way to a calmer approach: letting all that info-flotsam float around out there as it will but not worrying about it any more. Rather than seeking horizontal metaphors or practices aimed at synthesizing everything in search of some unified theory (hey, if Einstein couldn't do it, why should you feel the pressue to?), it seems to me that more artists are permitting themselves to dig vertically, mining deeper into specific, often entirely esoteric veins. Which may be nothing more than the long predicted return of mannerism, but ...

...I've rambled on long enough. Consider this an open thread on...well, anything really. I've certainly not found any convincing thesis in all this.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Announcing Digital Subscriptions to www.edwardwinkleman.com

Yes, yes, I know. You'd hardly read here if you had to pay. There are plenty of other sources for half-assed art world commentary and amateur political punditry. But that's just too bad. Daddy wants a brand new Mini-Cooper and, well, it's an important life lesson to learn that nothing in this world is free.

So starting next week, www.edwardwinkleman.com is introducing digital subscriptions. I'm not promising any additional content or higher quality of content, mind you. Just the same off-the-cuff, polluted stream of consciousness drivel you're used to wading through now. But once you sign up you will be guaranteed full access to my pontifications, gallery press releases, holiday photos, and other electronic regurgitations on your computer, smartphone and tablet. Of course, I still reserve the right to go on vacation and cease blogging while doing an art fair. You'll get at least one day's notice before that happens though.

If you don't sign up for the new digital subscription, you will still have access to a maximum of 20 archival postings each year. Choose them wisely. And understand that if you open a new window to read the comments or add one of your own, that will count against one of your 20 freebies.

OK, OK, this seemed funnier in my head while taking a shower this morning. I am not introducing a digital subscription, but rather voicing my (slight) annoyance in how The New York Times has.

I do believe it's time that proper news organizations are able to earn money from their online offerings. We cheapskates have been gorging ourselves at the all-we-can-eat buffet of free news for long enough. But in trying to sort out whether or not I wish to sign up for the Times digitial subscription (and which one), I've noticed a few flaws in their "20 free articles each month" idea. Yes, I do understand the old pusher-in-the-playground approach to giving away a bit of product knowing your client will soon be hooked, but as I joked about above, the Times isn't introducing any new content that I can see and so there's nothing more than frustration that I've reached my 20-article limit that might push me to break out the credit card. I would advise them to consider a bit more incentive...like, oh, I don't know...perhaps more gallery reviews or something like that.

Also, it's not entirely clear what constitutes an "article" or how the Times is keeping track. Yes, I have an account with them, but am I charged for navigating around to my favorite sections (probably not), what if I accidentally click on the wrong link (do I need to be on a certain article for a certain length of time for it to count?), and what about the publisher's "Letter to Our Readers About Digital Subscriptions" (does that count against my 20?).

As much as I empathize with the industry and know they need to find ways to earn money through online content, I hope this is only the first part of a trial-and-error period and the Times and others will keep working to get it right. Not quite there yet, IMHO.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Speaking of Stand-Up and Audiences

Tonight I'm very pleased to be participating in Paul Klein's series of in-depth discussions on building your career as an artist. These talks not only often touch on the impact of the Internets on the art world, but also often take place with people around the world via the same channel. Tonight I'll be in my gallery, Paul will be in Chicago, and the attendees are reportedly logging in from around the globe. The series has included some of the most outspoken and best-positioned-to-know people out there, including artists, collectors, critics, consultants, tax experts, insurance experts, and the occasional gallerist (see the full list here).

The current season of talks is mostly complete, but Paul has offered a discounted rate for readers of this blog for tonight's session with yours truly (8:00 EST to about 8:45) and Janet Eklebarger, Art Accountant (8:45 +/- on). I've watched a few of the webinars Paul has taped and can attest that his past experience as dealer and insightful questions leads to a direct, intensive, meaty discussion.

Paul told me that how the audience interacts with the discussion varies (there's a chat function and sometimes he opens up the mikes), but I'll encourage anyone who joins to hold me to my word and be a critical and demanding audience. I promise to answer any and all questions as best I can. I also promise to keep the "Star Trek" jokes to an absolute minimum.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

The Era of Wasted Genius, or The Failure of the Contemporary Audience

Yes, I realize that geniuses of many eras were often wasted, as in "under the influence." Here I mean in the other sense, as in "used or expended carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose."

You see, I believe the state of being a genius is 1) a condition of relativity, having meaning only when used to draw comparison to those around a given person, and therefore 2) a constant throughout history (i.e, there is always going to be someone who will be a genius in comparison to everyone else around at the time).

And in that way, since we'll always have geniuses around, it may seem odd to express a lament for "wasted" genius, but there's a third component of genius that requires a receptive audience to provide them with the feedback they need to achieve their greatest height. Wikipedia defines "genius" this way:
Genius is something or someone embodying exceptional intellectual ability, creativity, or originality, typically to a degree that is associated with the achievement of unprecedented insight. [emphasis mine]
"Insight," which is generally somewhat (though not completely, obviously) time and place determined, is the part of genius that requires an audience that can recognize it.

And so I was both pleased and dismayed to have a friend share with me a passage from the Martin Scorsese documentary on Fran Lebowitz, Public Speaking. I haven't yet seen the film, but I've been eating up all the segments shared on YouTube. Here's one of the trailers:



In the trailer (if you're not watching it), Fran notes (and I fully agree) that "If we have horrible politicians, it is your fault."

That relates directly to the passage my friend highlighted, which is discussed in this review of the documentary:
And Fran is confident. Everyone’s constantly apologizing these days. They don’t want to offend anybody. They sacrifice their beliefs in order to be a member of the group. But an artist is separate from the group. Chances are if the celebrity is busy hanging out at clubs, being part of the moveable celebrity feast, he’s a shitty artist. Artists are square pegs who don’t fit in the round holes. They get depressed. But they survive by putting forth their insights, which so many of the silent multitude can relate to.

Fran says AIDS killed not only the best artists, but the [best] audience!

Let’s start with the artists… Those who died were the coolest. How do we know? THEY WERE GETTING LAID! Only those who were not having sex survive. Fran says if the dead came back to life, they’d be stunned who’s a star today, all the second-rate wannabes.

And it used to be that the audience was critical, demanded excellence. Now money trumps everything. Sold a lot of tickets? Then you must be good! You can’t criticize anybody who’s rich. [emphasis mine]
There was a comedy club I used to attend in London, when I lived there, that was a crueler version of boot camp for stand-up comedians. I mean, you had to be somewhat established to get a gig there, but you knew you had better be ready for it. This audience took extreme pride in not only making the comedians leave the stage, but in making them break down and cry. The hecklers were only about 1 million times more daring, smart, and, yes, funny than the average comedians there. But average comedians were not the point of this place. This club was an incubator for comic geniuses with skins like rhinos.

I recall one young guy who was trying to tell a fairly lame joke involving "Star Trek" (far too popular for this crowd's taste, and way too open to ready puns and "beam him up Scotty" heckles). At a certain point he lost complete control of the room (you know this when the audience members aren't even shouting out their heckles toward the stage, but sharing them among themselves). But something clicked inside that kid. He grew as determined as anyone I ever saw, and, through a positively brutal barrage of catcalls and boos, he finally made it through the joke. The audience gave him a standing ovation.

THAT was an audience. Demanding as hell, but generous to those who really fought to deliver.

I'm a big believer in the notion that each generation gets the art they deserve. To deserve great art, you must be a hard-working, critical audience. If you're not pleased with the art you see, demand better. It's the only way, as an audience, you can help foster genius.

Demand better.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

You Can't Get There From Here

Let's begin with a few mission statements/definitions.

The mission of the US Department of Commerce is defined as such:
The historic mission of the Department is "to foster, promote, and develop the foreign and domestic commerce" of the United States. This has evolved, as a result of legislative and administrative additions, to encompass broadly the responsibility to foster, serve, and promote the Nation's economic development and technological advancement.
The state of Maine's Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) defines its mission as such:
DECD is the umbrella organization for business development, community development, tourism & film, innovation, and international trade for the state of Maine.
The US Department of Labor defines its mission as such:
To foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.
And the state of Maine's Department of Labor defines its mission as:
The Maine Department of Labor promotes the safety and economic well being of all individuals and businesses in Maine by promoting independence and life long learning, by fostering economic stability and by ensuring the safe and fair treatment of all people on the job.
What you can see via a comparison is that while the US Department of Labor focuses on workers, the state of Maine's Department of Labor concerns itself also with the needs of businesses. Despite having another department that also concerns itself with the needs of businesses, comparable to the US Department of Commerce.

Now, I'm no expert in Maine's government, but I do think this overlap of focus explains why the Governor of our most northern eastcoast state had insisted that a mural in the state's Department of Labor be taken down because it's not, in his opinion, fair to business.

The Portland Press Herald explains:
Labor leaders and the state's biggest Latino group expressed outrage Wednesday at Gov. Paul LePage's decision to remove a mural depicting workers from the Department of Labor's headquarters and rename conference rooms in the building.

Matt Schlobohm, executive director of the Maine AFL-CIO, called the decision "insulting to working people, petty and shortsighted."

"It seems the governor is much more interested in picking fights with labor than creating jobs that people so desperately want," he said. "We believe their story deserves to be told on the walls of the Department of Labor."

The 36-foot-long, 11-panel mural depicts the state's labor history, including a shoe worker strike in Lewiston, female shipbuilders and striking papermakers in Jay.

It also highlights dangerous working conditions, long work hours and child labor, according to a 2008 memo from the Department of Labor.

LePage explained his decision on the Boston-based Howie Carr radio show late in the day.

"I'm trying to send a message to everyone in the state that the state of Maine looks at employees and employers equally, neutrally and on balance," he said. "The mural sends a message that we're one-sided, and I don't want to send that message."
I have a simple solution, then, Governor. Since your focus is on sending the message that everyone in Maine looks at employees and employers equally, why not just move the mural to your Department of Economic and Community Development offices? That way the business leaders who visit there will understand how much you care about the history and needs of laborers.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Opening Tomorrow: Jimbo Blachly "Lanquidity" @ Winkleman Gallery, and in the Curatorial Research Lab "Signs on the Road," March 25 - April 30, 2011

Jimbo Blachly
Lanquidity

March 25 - April 30, 2011
Opens March 25 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Winkleman Gallery is very pleased to present Lanquidity, our first solo show of paintings by New York artist Jimbo Blachly. Known for his sculpture, installations, and his collaborations with Lytle Shaw as editors for the Chadwick Family (who will have another exhibition at Winkleman Gallery this spring), Blachly secretly took up painting again four years ago after a 30-year hiatus. While immediately recognizable as having Blachly’s sensibility, the landscapes and geometric abstractions he created, and only recently revealed to anyone, display a lifetime of closely examining what painting can be at both the micro and macro levels. This examination stems in part from Blachly’s day job in an art conservation studio, where his constant contact with major twentieth-century paintings involves interacting with them both as physical objects and as artworks.

Intimate, fragmentary, allusive, Blachly’s small canvases evoke at once romantic depictions of sublime experience (from earlier Europeans like Palmer and Turner to the later Americans like Blakelock and Ryder) and modernist abstraction a la Palermo or the late work of Picabia. And yet the relation between these references is strangely and perhaps surprisingly unified—since it is as if Blachly zooms in to the figurative, dramatic world of Romantic painting in order to reveal a domain of largely figureless abstraction, of down time within the world of the sublime. This excavation of quiet ambience from a world of keyed-up intensity runs throughout Blachly’s painting, which often explores installation logics by working in small constellations or configurations. Devastatingly gorgeous, Blachly’s canvases evoke the grainy surface next to the grand event.

The installation for Lanquidity, as with most of Blachly’s exhibitions, will be decidedly “site determined,” worked through intuitively, with the dual goals of presenting each painting as an individual work and highlighting rhythms and connections between works up until the final moments before he concludes the installation is complete. The exhibition also will feature several notebooks and framed drawings.

Jimbo Blachly’s work has been exhibited widely including at the Sculpture Center, Long Island City, NY; Elizabeth Harris Gallery, New York, NY; Cirius Arts Center Cobh, Ireland; and Hunter College’s Bertha and Karl Leubsdorf Art Gallery, New York, NY. He has received fellowships from the Farpath Fellowship, Dijon, France, and the Bellagio Fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation. He earned his BFA from The School of the Art Institute, Chicago, IL, and his MFA from University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI.


And in the Curatorial Research Lab

Signs on the Road
Organized by: Workroom G; Curated by: Gogue Projects (Phase 1), Cathouse FUNeral (Phase 2), Camel Collective (Phase 3)

March 25 - April 30, 2011
Opens March 25 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Artists often fixate on particular found material (imagery, objects, quotes, fragments of text, etc.) that reveals no direct connection to their practice but that possesses for them an enigmatic, resonant meaning. This material may serve as a beacon for their practice, suggesting an unrealized and indeterminate potential for future work. Perhaps this material is the uncanny of artistic practice.

For this exhibition we collect such material from over a hundred and fifty artists, each invited to submit a single-page digital file to be printed on an 8×10-inch sheet. This small archive will be handed over to three curatorial collectives, each of whom will mount a treatment and exhibition in the diminutive (10-foot by 10-foot) Curatorial Research Lab at Winkleman Gallery. Despite the collection's necessarily small scale, we hope for a different order of insight than can be derived from primary artistic production. What if, for a moment, we treat such secondary material as primary? We are curious to see what tentative and comparative understandings can be drawn regarding a collective sensibility of the moment. Could organizations of this archive serve as signs on the road toward something beyond its constituent parts?

Workroom G is Michael Ashkin, Leslie Brack, and Joshua Geldzahler

Gogue Projects is Matt Freedman & Jude Tallichet

Camel Collective is www.camelcollective.org

Cathouse FUNeral is David Dixon, Karen Miller, Pete Moran

ARTISTS: David Adamo, Alyson Aliano, Greg Allen, Meredith Allen, Robert Andrade, Mirene Arsanios, Michael Ashkin, David Atkin, Nancy Baker, Conrad Bakker, Michael Ballou, Sarah Bedford, David Beneforado, Annie Berman, Eric Ross Bernstein, Roberto Bertoia, Mary Walling Blackburn, Lee Boroson, Leslie Brack, David Brody, Monica Burczyk, Pam Butler, Sharon Butler, Holly Cahill, Zachary Cahill, Tiffany Calvert, Francis Cape, Zhiwan Cheung, Piotr Chizinski, Jennifer Coates, Elisabeth Condon, Anne Connell, Diana Cooper, Daniel Cosentino, Amie Cunat, Elizabeth Dadi, Iftikhar Dadi, Jennifer Dalton, Donna Dennis, David Dixon, Ben Draper, eteam, Julie Evans, Anna Faroqhi, Anoka Faruqee, Renate Ferro, Paul Festa, Matt Freedman, Carolyn Funk, Lee Gainer, Joshua Geldzahler, Benj Gerdes, Lindsey Glover, DeWitt Godfrey, Maximilian Goldfarb, Edward M. Gomez, Anthony Graves, Lisa Hamilton, Shadi Harouni, David Hartt, Kirsten Hassenfeld, Jennifer Hayashida, Eric Heist, Amy Helfand, Alika Herreshoff, Clara Hess, Bob Hewitt, Susan Homer, Bettina Hubby, David Humphrey, Gabriela Jimenez, Christopher Lowry Johnson, Ron Jude, Martine Kaczynski, Efrat Kedem, Christine Kelly, Daren Kendall, Baseera Khan, Elke Krasny, Larry Krone, Lasse Lau, Jill Lear, Ronna Lebo, Diana Seo Hyung Lee, Karen Leo, Jason Livingston, David Lukowski, Pauline M'barek, Rose Marcus, Justin Martin, Mark Masyga, Graham McDougal, Todd McGrain, Doug McLean, Vincent Meessen, Danielle Mericle, Elisabeth Meyer, Andrea Minicozzi, John Monti, Pete Moran, Ray Mortenson, Erik Moskowitz & Amanda Trager, Carrie Moyer, Nicholas Muellner, Chris Nau, Yamini Nayar, Gregor Neuerer, Jennifer Nichols, Meredith Nickie, Marty Ohlin, Chris Oliver, Craig Olson, Ruth Oppenheim, Maria Park, Ahndraya Parlato, Ditte Lyngkaer Pedersen, Liza Phillips, Anna Pinkus, Maggie Prendergast, Johannes Paul Raether, Paul Rajakovics, Cuba Ray, Dylan Reid, Thomas Rentmeister, Noah Robbins, Christopher Robinson, Kay Rosen, Douglas Ross, Benjamin Rubloff, Kathleen Rugh, Rachel Salamone, David Scher, Mira Schor, Peter Scott, Dennis Sears, Daniel Seiple, Rachel Selekman, James Sheehan, Buzz Spector, Suzy Spence, Liz Sweibel, Stan Taft, Jude Tallichet, Nick Tobier, Nathan Townes-Anderson, Jeanne Tremel, Lauren Valchuis, Chris Werner, Leslie Wilkes, Sammy Jean Wilson, Karen Yasinsky, Bernard Yenelouis

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Retiring as an Artist | Open Thread

We talk so much here about an artist's "career," borrowing the term from more conventional work histories, which for the average person has a beginning and (hopefully before they die) an ending and a chance to enjoy the fruits of their labor, but we've also spent time discussing how artists keep making art despite whether or not their "career" is doing well (by which, of course, we mean whether or not they're able to support themselves via sales of their art). We've also recently discussed whether or not late work by an artist can be expected to be better than their early work, which only reinforces the notion that an artist is expected to be a worker for life.

But why?

The simple response would be because many feel that being an artist is a "calling" rather than just a vocation. It's their identity and there's nothing else they'd rather do. But as MFA programs and simply expectations in the market place keep nudging artists toward a more "professional" approach to their careers, why shouldn't artists also be able to eventually relax and enjoy retirement?

The Guardian's Jonathan Jones recently took on these questions in his post titled "Real artists never retire – or do they?":
Is retirement an option for creative artists? The film director Steven Soderbergh recently announced that he plans to retire from movie-making once his next two films are finished. A folly? A whim? A PR stunt? Who knows, but he sounded sincerely tired of it all in the interview I read.

This startled me, because Soderbergh, while working in Hollywood, has gained a reputation as a serious film artist. And retirement rarely seems to interest serious artists – least of all visual ones.

Lucian Freud and Cy Twombly are still painting, and still doing powerful work, in old age. Nor is the career longevity (and physical longevity) of artists just a product of modern healthcare. In the 16th century, both Michelangelo and Titian lived very long lives and both worked brilliantly into their last years. Titian's late works are his greatest of all and several scintillating masterpieces were left unfinished when he died. Michelangelo also left an incredible unfinished masterpiece – when death obliged him to lay down tools, he was the architect of St Peter's.

If great artists work well beyond retirement age, it is surely because, especially for a painter, writer or similarly skilled worker, it can take a lifetime to learn all the skills. Only then can you work with total freedom: hence the striking phenomenon of "late" styles.
I suspect you could make the last statement about people in lots of fields though. An editor's skills improve with time as do a baker's, I suspect. A police detective surely becomes more effective the longer he/she has spent studying criminal behavior first hand. And I personally feel much more comfortable visiting a doctor who's older than I am than one who's not (I call it my Marcus Welby issue). But no one expects any of these folks to keep working past the retirement age, unless they choose to.

Jones carries on with something I never knew, though:
There is at least one startling exception to the rule that real artists never retire: Shakespeare. He made his money in London then retired to his native Stratford, like Prospero relinquishing his magic in The Tempest. But then Shakespeare is an exception to every rule and the ultimate biographical enigma.
Consider this an open thread on whether artists should be expected to keep working until they pass away or whether retiring as an artist is the same well-deserved reward it is in other fields.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Appropriation Prohibition (or Why I Think Judge Batts Is Wrong)

Pssst....hey buddy...wanna see an outlawed Richard Prince painting?

I'm not sure that the recent ruling by U.S. District Court judge Deborah A. Batts (that paintings from Richard Prince's series “Canal Zone” cannot now lawfully be displayed by the collectors who parted with millions of dollars to buy them) won't make the works all that more precious to their owners. I'd love to know what the judge thinks those collectors need to do to comply with the ruling. Hang a velvet curtain over the paintings? Keep them crated and in storage for eternity? Something even more absurd?

The ruling was a chilling decision for artists who work in appropriation. Artnet.com has the story:
On Mar. 18, 2011, U.S. District Court judge Deborah A. Batts ruled that Richard Prince had infringed the copyright of photographer Patrick Cariou when Prince appropriated 41 photographs from Cariou’s Yes Rasta (PowerHouse Books, 2000, $60), a book of photographs of Rastafarians in Jamaica, for Prince’s own show of artworks at Gagosian Gallery in New York City titled “Canal Zone.”

Prince’s mural-sized collage-and-painting works used figures of Rastafarians from Cariou’s photographs, altering them notably by placing oval shapes over the eyes and mouths of the figures, and by inserting guitars into their hands, sometimes combining them with figures of pornographic nudes (not photographed by Cariou). The exhibition took place Nov. 8-Dec. 20, 2008. Cariou filed his copyright infringement lawsuit against Prince, Gagosian Gallery and Rizzoli (publishers of the catalogue) in December of 2008.
The most unsettling part of Batts' ruling, as artnet.com reports, is how she went so far as to declare Prince's intent for him: "[T]he court found that Prince’s motive in copying Cariou’s photographs was primarily commercial...." If Prince hadn't been using appropriation for decades, I might be able to see Batts' argument (given that "Gagosian sold eight of the works for a total of $10,480,000"), but even then, the notion that an artist cannot do both simultaneously [make important artwork and profit from it] seems a bias that the judiciary, of all institutions, should refrain from propagating. For Batts to claim Prince's primary motivation in creating this body of work was sales is a rather frightening exercise in mind-reading.

But the ruling went far beyond mere money and made a few uniformed declarations about process:
[T]he judge rejected Prince’s claim that his “Canal Zone” works represented “fair use” of Cariou’s original photographs, particularly because Prince’s works do not specifically comment on Cariou’s originals. In testimony Prince admitted that he was not commenting on Cariou’s photographs or Rastafarian culture, but rather sought to pay homage to Cézanne, de Kooning, Picasso and Warhol and other artists. Prince also said that he intended to emphasize three themes: men and women; men and men; and women and women.

Citing the judgment in the 1992 Rogers v. Koons case -- involving Jeff Koons’ String of Puppies sculpture copied from Art Rogers’ postcard photo -- the judge noted that allowing copyright to be infringed solely on the claim of a “higher artistic use” would in practical terms eliminate copyright protection altogether.
This is a philosophical question, and, of course, those who feel their copyrights have been infringed deserve to have their day in court, but "inherent in the process of appropriation is the fact that the new work recontextualizes whatever it borrows to create the new work" (emphasis mine). To my mind, that recontextualization is, in and of itself, always commentary.

I realize this leaves open the door for anyone who can dredge up some hypothetical dooms-day scenario involving one of my artists' work being copied outright with commentary of dubious significance as its rationalization (I can tell you, I'd have to see the work before I'd object), but all of that leaves out the fact that Richard Prince is an acknowledged pioneer and leader in the use of appropriation, who has dedicated his career to exploring the recontextualization of images that are all around us.

Another part of the ruling that is sure to make sphincters twitch throughout Chelsea was this:
The ruling also found Gagosian Gallery liable for Prince’s infringements, on the grounds that the gallery should have ensured that Prince had the rights to the material he used before the gallery offered the items for sale.
It may be a simple (and ultimately expensive) call to one's lawyer to ensure the work a gallery plans to show falls within the realm of "fair use," but it's hard to imagine this won't dissuade younger galleries from presenting work they may be found liable for across the board, or pushing back to make the artists pay the legal fees to prove "fair use." The potential impact of this on art history is (as Charlie Finch so rightly noted in his insightful take on the case) Kafkaesque.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Accelerated Nostalgia

The oldest item of clothing I have in my closet (and still wear) is a sweatshirt that's more than 30 years old. It's a hand-me-down, but it's super comfy and warm, and I have very fond memories of times spent in it, so I keep it and occasionally still wear it. I was thinking about that the other day when Bambino was watching American Idol and the ages of the contestants were roughly about half that of my sweatshirt.

I was thinking about that too when I saw that Artnet Magazine, the longest running of the online pioneers (I think......at least it's the highest-profile publication of the earliest pioneers) is celebrating its 15th anniversary. Artnet Magazine editor Walter Robinson pens a refreshing look back as an introduction to the republication of several choice articles from 1996:
In those early days, "we’re just starting out" was one of my favorite excuses, and it was good for the first couple of years, at least. But looking back now on the texts that we posted -- and that is what we’ve done here, put up-to-date titles, blurbs and links to some of our earliest articles -- they need no special pleading. Quite to the contrary, I happily publish them again today, because of the commentary itself as well as the authors who wrote it.
And so he has, including
  • "Revenge of the Blockbuster," by Lee Rosenbaum, 3/18/96
  • "Six-figure sales at tune-up auctions, ADAA Art Show," by Judd Tully, 3/22/96
  • "Social Responsibility and the Art Critic," by Eleanor Heartney, 3/18/96
  • "Nari Ward at Jeffrey Deitch Projects," by John Good, 3/22/96
The first line of the article by John Good does give you a good sense of just how long 15 years can be in the art world:
We can't help but be impressed by the three shows produced thus far by the former Citibank art advisor and freelance curator Jeffrey Deitch in his closely watched new space on Grand Street.
In looking through the topics republished, though, I got a sense of why there was a initial sense of frustration from Artnet toward bloggers, including yours truly, who burst onto the scene about 5 years ago offering up our opinions on issues, as if such things sprang (like so many Athenian gigabytes) from our heads, that Artnet had tackled more than a decade before. Such is the nature of all new comers and new generations in all fields, though, and simply a part of participating in an ongoing dialog.

Still, if the date on Lee Rosenbaum's article was hidden, it would only have been her examples (and not the issue) that clarified the time-frame of her article on blockbusters:
A new breed of art impresario whose strong suit is showmanship, not scholarship, is moving in on the blockbuster business. As exemplified by both the "Wonders" exhibition series based in Memphis, Tenn. and the Florida International Museum, St. Petersburg, these presenters hire art experts as temps; shell out megabucks to borrow treasures from money-hungry foreign museums; construct lavish installations recreating the ambiance of tomb, temple or palace; charge hefty admission fees; and promote the whole package like an art theme-park. The goal is to attract thousands of visitors and millions of tourist dollars.
So I tip my hat to Mr. Robinson and his mighty team of writers with their formidable pens (ok, keyboards) for leading the way for the past 15 years. Here's to the next 15 and beyond!

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Friday, March 18, 2011

In Memoriam : Meredith Allen (1964 - 2011)

My heart is terribly broken today, as I've learned that New York artist Meredith Allen lost her battle with cancer yesterday morning. Meredith had been nothing short of heroic in how she fought the disease over the past three years; brave, human, honest, and always, through it all, kinder than anyone dealing with such pain and fear could be expected to be. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her deepest love, Carol Saft, and their families.

Bambino and I saw Meredith just a few weeks ago. She had come into the gallery with Iggy (her dog), and we both commented on how radiant she was looking. It was indeed a shock to hear the news. We were so encouraged by how good she looked.

I first met Meredith back in the late 1990s when the Williamsburg scene was just beginning to come into its own. Meredith would show up at openings and photograph people for the now defunct "Waterfront Weekly"' column "Art Seen":






It was W-burg's version of the society page, and one of the only consistent pictorial archives of the scene at that time.

At the same time, Meredith was gaining attention for her haunting photographs of children's storefront "Kiddie Rides":

Meredith Allen, "Kiddie Ride #26," 1996, archival iris giclee print, 12 x 12. Image Copyrighted.

The series that really took off and helped Meredith gain wider attention, though, was her dripping cartoon pops ("Melting Ice Pops"):


Meredith Allen, "Moriches Island Road (supersonic)," 2000, c-print, 20 x 24 inches. Image copyrighted.

Reprinted everywhere, in dozens of group shows (including one at our space in Williamsburg in 2002) and articles and eventually solo exhibitions, including one of the last exhibitions at Gracie Mansion's gallery, these addictively sensuous images became Meredith's break-out series and are included in many collections around the world.

By the time she had her solo exhibition at Edward Thorp Gallery in 2008, she had taken the painting-meets-photography exploration to a whole new level with her smart and gorgeous "Trash" series:



Meredith Allen, "untitled_0365," 2008, digital C-Print, 18.25 x 18.25 inches

Meredith had also by that time started chemotherapy. I recall how impressed I was at her spirit at the Thorp opening, where the cancer and treatment were obviously (from how thin she had gotten) a hellish lot to deal with, but where she spent so much time talking with me about the "Trash" series. Her energy level was taxed, but her interest in what photography could do was boundless.

Even as I respected and admired her commitment to art, I also was in awe of Meredith's commitment to Carol, their family and friends, and the arts community. Whether it was Film Club at Four Walls (which Meredith documented in a book), her donations to any (all?) of the benefits for non-profit spaces that count on artists to support them, or simply the social scene at which she, Carol, and the adorable Iggy (who inspired the photographic series "People I Meet When I Walk My Dog") were just "part of the family," Meredith was always out there, always so generous, and always so much fun to catch up with. It's impossible to accept she won't be at our next opening.

May you rest in peace, dear Meredith...we miss you terribly already.


Update:

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Items of Note

Still getting over a frightfully painful chest cold that had me on my back yesterday, but feeling comparatively rosy today (thanks to modern medicine and Bambino's Chicken Soup!), so I'll keep today's post short. Just a list of a few items of note:

Congratulations to Man Bartlett, whose peformance/installation at last year's #class exhibition made the cover of C Magazine:

And speaking of C Magazine, their summer issue will feature an article on Joy Garnett and the interesting overlap between social media and cooking, no less. It's all connected to the upcoming exhibition "With Food in Mind," curated by Nicole Caruth. The Center For Book Arts, NY, April 13, 2011 - June 25, 2011

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Winkleman Gallery artist Carlos Motta, whose work is currently in" the "Found in Translation" exhibition at the Guggenheim in New York, has launched a USA Projects campaign (it's the new Kickstarter, don't ya know):
[A] collaborative project between myself and Josh Lubin-Levy. We are raising funds via United States Artists's "USA Projects" to produce a book and exhibition titled "Petite Mort: Recollections of a Queer Public." We are asking an intergenerational group of gay men to submit a drawing from memory of a public space where they had a memorable sexual encounter. The drawings and accompanying textual description will be assembled into a book that we are referring to as an atlas of queer affection. Our hope is to advocate for sexual difference and collectivity, in response to the privatization of public space and the LGBT movement's focus on a politics of assimilation. The works also hopes to serve as a kind of blueprint of a disappearing queer history.

Here is a full description and a video of us describing the work:
http://www.unitedstatesartists.org/project/petite_mort_recollections_of_a_queer_public
for just a little money you too can help this project come to fruition.

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Don't miss this great, in-depth interview with Christopher K. Ho by Tabitha Piseno about his exhibition "Regional Painting" on Bomblog. Chris offers some of the most honest answers I've ever read about a show in my life:
When Ed Winkleman, the owner and director, first spoke to me about a second show, he mentioned that second shows often fail because the artist, emboldened by his first, believes incorrectly that he has an audience who is interested in him, rather than his art. I took this as a dare. Was it possible to do an autobiographical show without falling into indulgence? What if autobiography became the very basis for the show’s thesis, the core of the show’s polemic? Didn’t autobiography intimate that which was disallowed and disavowed in my own artistic training, which was historical, conceptual, and critical, rather expressionistic, intuitive, and emotional? And, as such, wouldn’t autobiography be a rich and even necessary arena to mine, especially if abstracted into being a model?
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If you find yourself in White Plains (and we all eventually do, somehow), don't miss the group exhibition "The Bank and Trust Show," curated by Dara Meyers-Kingsley, at the ArtsExchange Gallery, March 18, June 4, 2011. It includes the highly informational piece by Jennifer Dalton, "How Do Artists Live?"

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Finally, there's an interview with yours truly by the savvy Brian Sherwin up on Fine Art Views:
BS: I'm sure you are contacted by hopeful artists all the time-- due to the Internet artists can easily contact art dealers, art critics, and other art world professionals with ease... I'm sure that is not always a good thing. With that in mind, do you have any advice concerning online etiquette that artists should adhere to when communicating online? Should artists resist the urge to contact an art dealer out of the blue, so to speak?

EW: I wouldn't dissuade anyone from going about this in the way they feel they must, whatever that may be. I would say, however, that galleries do get bombarded all the time by cold call submissions that are so entirely wrong for their program it makes you wonder if the artist even knows the first thing about the gallery, that they eventually grow weary and more and more don't even give the cold call a chance. Your best introduction is always via an artist working with the gallery or a writer or collector or curator who knows and likes the gallery. I'd highly recommend going that route if a cold call ends in silence from the gallery end.
Someone already asked me on another thread if that means I'm saying it's ok to contact gallery directors directly. I responded:
What I said in that interview is that I wouldn't dissuade anyone from doing what they feel they must (with what I hoped would be the implication that it's not likely to work). Yes, in the rare instance it might, but as I noted in two other places you should network to the gallery.

If you want odds to help you decide, let me say you're 98% more likely to have success with the networking approach.

All I'm trying to say is that for each example you'll find (and you will find some) of someone whose cold call submission actually worked, you'll find 98 other attempts that failed.

The person who's a good manager of their time would network.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

After Disaster, Laundry

Can't think of anything as relevant to share today as this:

http://thisjapaneselife.org/2011/03/15/japan-earthquake-work-disaster/

[h/t JG]

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Monday, March 14, 2011

How to Make a Better Spiderman...er, I Mean Art Fair | Open Thread

A friend of mine has seen it and confirms it's pretty awful, but even without his in-depth critique I had known by merely scanning the zillions of headlines that the new Broadway musical, "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” was not the crowd-pleaser its producers would have hoped their $70 million would buy them. At this point, it's become a bit of a cultural phenomenon for its perceived failure, and as such, it made total sense to me that The New York Times art blog would ask its readers to weigh in on how to fix it:
Last week NYTimes.com readers were asked to advise the makers of “Spider-Man” on how to improve, overhaul, fix, reinvigorate or totally reboot the opening-delayed, critically-drubbed new musical. As of Sunday over 150 comments were posted on ArtsBeat, Facebook and Twitter (#fixspiderman), ranging from the sincerely helpful to the comically naughty (and dismissively scornful).
The sincerely helpful ones were the ones that caught my attention, as they revealed a sophisticated response by obviously seasoned theater-goers, who are, after all, the intended audience for the eventual production. It occurred to me that the NYTimes had give the musical's producers a wonderful gift in doing so (it's like a free focus group of very well-informed opinions).

As noted above, I haven't seen Spider-Man and thus don't have an opinion, but I thought I'd take a page out of the Times book and see if the seasoned art fair goers still recuperating from The Armory Week in New York might not share their opinions on how the week's fairs (including ours, which received a fair bit of constructive criticism its first time out...sincere thanks to all who cared enough to write about it!) could better serve their intended audiences. Feel free to share your sophisticated opinions (praise as well as frustrations) with any or all of the fairs, including, but not limited to, logistics, entry fees, application process, the quality of the art, the quality of the experience, the quality of the food, etc. etc. etc. Charmingly snarky comments will be published...mean-spirited ones that offer nothing constructive probably won't (I'll decide).

Consider this an open thread on how to build a better art fair.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thoughts on Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy

Paraphrased from something I saw on Facebook:
A CEO, a Tea Party member, and a teacher are sitting at a table. In the center of the table is a plate with 12 cookies. The CEO takes 11 of them and turns to the Tea Party member and says, "You'd better watch that teacher, she wants your cookie."
I go back and forth on the question of wealth distribution. It's to a large degree inconsistent with the American Dream, which says if you work hard enough you can realize whatever you wish. I like the American Dream...I like to work hard...and I like to believe it will get me to the place I'd like to be.

I guess the problem I have with our country at the moment is that the place far too many people would seem to like to be is to have more money than they could ever dream of spending smartly. It's not comfort, security, or even mere luxury they seem after...it's excess for its own bragging rights. More money, more power, more of everything, even when they already have one (or more) of everything.

Actually, it's power. That's what they're after. That's what the CEO with four homes, 8 cars, a private jet, a yatch, and more in the bank than the GNP of many countries find they want more of...Power. More power than their neighbor CEO, more power than their direct competitors. More power than the government.

I've spent enough time listening to CEOs discuss competition to know many feel power is simply another means of protecting their investors. This is a convenient and transparent excuse for their gold-plated toilets if ever there was one. The truth is (I would bet) they want power for themselves...it's an entirely addictive and corrupting force. But it's a driving force and, I suspect, the ultimate culprit in the widening gap between poor and rich in this country. CEOs occassionally dump impressive sums that look like they must hurt to you and me for this or that charity, but by evidence of how their wealth is accumulating, it's clearly chump change in the overall scheme of things. The uber-wealthy are not hurting, and they're not really sharing the pain the rest of the country is feeling. As this chart shows, 64% of all income growth since 1979 has gone to the top 10 percent.


(Washington Post)

Clearly, the rising tide has not lifted all boats equally. And that would not seem to be the universe's (nature's, God's, whatever) way, so it doesn't sit well with me.

To rethink Power is the key, I believe, to sorting out the inequality. Once someone has more power/money than they can wisely spend.. (“The attempt to combine wisdom and power has only rarely been successful and then only for a short while” -- Albert Einstein)...once their goals move from financial success to obvious excess...the nation should do more to reward a different sort of power: the power to change lives for the better. Excess should be mocked and shunned consistently, and not celebrated in mindless TV shows aimed at teenagers. Philanthropy should be celebrated as the highest social achievement. Rather than tacky drivel like MTV Cribs treating excess as if it were heroic, warping the expectations and values of the next generation, the glossy magazines and talk shows should make heroes of the people who use their money to improve the lives of others. And also point out when they're not doing so.

Let me start. Last year was a pathetic year for Philanthropy in the US:

The year 2010 brought a lot of talk of philanthropy by the super-rich—but not much giving.

Despite more than 50 billionaires announcing last year that they would ultimately devote at least half of their wealth to charity, few made big gifts in 2010.

Just 17 people on The Chronicle’s annual list of the 50 most-generous donors also appeared on Forbes magazine’s list of the 400 wealthiest Americans.

Over all, the donors on The Chronicle’s list—which actually numbered 54 this year, thanks to some ties in the rankings—committed a combined total of $3.3- billion, the smallest sum since The Chronicle began to track the biggest donors in 2000.
Yes, times are tough, but of Forbes list of the 400 Wealthiest Americans each of the top 20 people got richer in 2010. (Did you get richer in 2010?) So left to its own devices, making more money doesn't necessarily lead Americans to give more away.

But let's turn this around and celebrate generosity.

Which Americans gave the most in 2010? Who is America's greatest Philanthropist? It will probably disappoint Glenn Beck fans to learn it was George Soros, who gave away $332 million in 2010. Second was NY City mayor Mike Bloomberg; followed by Denny Sanford; Irwin M. and Joan K. Jacobs; and Eli and Edythe L. Broad.

Each of these people has their supporters and critics, but for a moment, just stop to appreciate that none of these top philanthropists is one of the top 5 richest Americans, and only Mike Bloomberg breaks into the top 10. There is no direct correlation between wealth and philanthropy. It's a free country, I know...but the more we collectively celebrate philanthropy, rather that conspicuous consumption, the more we might encourage a direct correlation.

Today, I thank the nation's top Philanthropists (you can see a list here). Keep up the great work! You're heroes for your generosity.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

So....What'd I Miss?

I'm still catching up on my sleep, so I'm not sure this makes much sense, but...

It's hard to pinpoint exactly why...maybe it's a projection thing (i.e., I feel I "lived" through the experience, which was much more daunting than anything we're seeing for real by far)...but having read Neuromancer, multiple times, has given me a calmer perspective on how frantic, disjointed, and seemingly out of control the world seems these days than many of my friends who never read it. I look as the Middle East spirals into chaos, widespread hunger and poverty creep back out from under the rock they seemed to have retreated under for a while there, the US empire is crumbling all around us, and pockets of radicalized nutjobs stockpile weapons and chemicals and seek to get worse, and all I can think is...eh, it's still not as bad as when The Panther Moderns make everyone at Sense/Net Corporation think they introduced the highly dangerous human growth hormone Blue Nine into their ventilation system, causing a kind of existential panic we've only seen in horror films (and, granted, cyberpunk novels).

I suspect that's the appeal of disastabatory stories...they psychically prepare us for the time-proven accuracy of the notion that things can always be worse.

It really does feel to me like the opening of A Tale of Two Cities lately. Torn between the reality I saw as I wandered around a few of the art fairs last week and the reality I read from faraway friends and family posting their hardships on Facebook. There seem to be two realities in our country.

Someone on Twitter or somewhere commented on the dearth of artwork at Independent or Moving Image that reflected the hardship in the heartland. I actually don't tend to like work that responds to current events, especially before a germination period, and I do think some of the work at Moving Image dealt with hardship (the opening installation by Kasmalieva and Djumaliev, for example, takes on as subject matter the heartache and hardship of women plunged into poverty doing the best they can to support their families). But I do feel it's hard when we're all dolled up, raising glasses of moderately priced cocktails, and presenting luxury objects in a luxurious setting to always see the connection between the sincere work artists are doing to reflect the reality around them and the marketplace.

What I know, though, is that it takes a lot of hard work to present that luxurious setting, and it takes a lot of hard work for most of the people who spend their extra income on art to make it in the first place, so I don't think it's as unconnected as it may seem to the person who wanders in off the street. In fact, I see all that as proof positive that in the midst of crumbling empires and precarious uprisings, it's human nature to still strive for an ideal...to work to keep the best of what we can produce as alive as we can. We could all burn down the museums as symbols of oppression, I suppose, but that would only be to cut off our noses to spite our faces.

Bambino and I watched "Der Tunnel" the other day. It's a true story about an Berlin athlete who teams up with a ragtag group of freedom fighters to dig a tunnel under the Berlin wall. They manage to help a dozen or more people escape before the East German officials flood the tunnel, but along the way the film shows several instances where people were killed or killed themselves because of this ridiculous political situation that would eventually fall away. At the end of the film, where they quickly update you on the fate of all the characters, all you can feel is what a freaking stupid thing to kill people over or die for all that was. In a few decades, the wall would fall, East and West Berlin would be reunited, and the same people who were shooting at each other would be neighbors again. Moronic.

And I guess it's that sense that what seems really important to us today may seem incomprehensibly silly tomorrow that keeps me so committed to promoting art. It's the through-line...the thing that seems to remain (or at least keep me) sane when all around us is chaos.

Now, I realize that what I'm sensing as "chaos" may be nothing more than the stack of things that piled up while we were focused on the fairs, and folks out there may be thinking "what's Ed smoking?" In which case, I'll simply say...it's nice to be back.

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